The independent review of sickness absence (the Review – available on our knowledge base) by Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE, which was published on 21 November 2011, aims to minimise the loss of work resulting from ill health and to find ways of reducing the burdens and costs of sickness absence.
The Review was based on some fundamental premises:
For most people of working age, the right work is good for their health and well-being.
- For most people, worklessness is harmful.
- Much sickness absence and inactivity follows common health conditions which are compatible with work (although sometimes it means a different kind of work) if people are given the right support.
- There should be minimal delay in making an adequate assessment of an individual’s capability to work.
- Despite best efforts, some people are too unwell or disabled to work and their needs should be answered adequately and promptly.
The Review made a range of recommendations, which are summarised below.
- Changes should be made to the current sickness absence system to improve its efficiency and its effectiveness in restoring people to work.
- Sickness certification should be improved so only those who are truly too unwell to work are declared completely unfit for work.
- The Review recommended the introduction of an Independent Assessment Service, which would relieve GPs of the task of signing people off on long-term sickness.
- Changes to the tax and regulatory regimes to enhance employers’ role in sickness absence management.
- Recommendations designed to bring the worst performing parts of the public sector up to the standards of the best (due to wide variations in practice across public sector organisations).
- The creation of a state-run job-brokering service to help those with long-term health conditions, who may not be able to do their current job, find another job they are capable of continuing with.
- Measures to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the benefits system, and to speed up and improve assessment of work capability in order to get people back to work sooner.
Dealing with sickness absence can be complex and most employers will need to seek guidance at some point on their legislative requirements towards employees, how best to support employees who are ill and/or off work, and how to minimise the negative impact of employees’ sickness and absence on their organisation. For professional, free, immediate advice, call the Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.